What Shopping Habits Say About A Job Seeker

by O'Donnell, J.T. Monday, March 22, 2010
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If I had to choose the biggest mistake I see job seekers making right now, I’d say it’s diving into a job search without properly determining their value to potential employers. They throw together a resume, blast out cover letters and submit online applications without first stepping back and getting a truly clear picture of what’s going to get them hired. The result is a lot of wasted time and energy that produces very little response from hiring managers.

Not sure what value you bring to employers? Go shopping!

If you are struggling to figure out your value to employers, you should take a trip to the mall. That’s right – go shopping! However, instead of bringing money, bring a paper and pen to take notes. Why? Because each of us approaches shopping the way a hiring manager chooses a new employee. We look at our options, compare features, benefits and costs, and then ultimately choose the item that meets our particular list of criteria. No two people shop the exact same way, just as no two hiring managers select candidates the exact same way. So, your goal is to look at what impacts your decision and then use that knowledge to better market your business-of-one.

Here’s an example...

I counseled one job seeker recently who couldn’t identify her value. She had worked as a project manager for years and had a solid track record, but candidly, she looked like hundreds of other job seekers with similar experience. I asked her, “If I told you to go buy a new sofa, what would you do?” She said, “I’d figure out the size, style and color I needed. Then, I’d chose 5 stores I knew offered the best deals on sofas and shop until I found the cheapest one that fit my criteria.” I followed up with, “What if you thought one was much prettier, but it cost more?” Her response, “It wouldn’t matter, to me, saving money is more attractive. I wouldn’t enjoy the prettier sofa because every time I sat on it I would think about how much more it cost me.” That simple response said a lot about her as an employee. We went on to talk about her approach to project management as it related to her approach to shopping. She was suddenly able to see a pattern in her work – she was always focused on saving the company money by finding the most practical tools, resources and talent. She prided herself on her ability to do more with less. Furthermore, she was able to cite clear examples of how her cost-saving approach to project management was a match for her past employers’ goals. Within minutes, she understood how she could be presenting herself better. Her takeaway comment to me was, “Employers need to understand why I am focused on saving them money and how I plan to do that for them. Otherwise, I’m the overpriced sofa.”

The lesson here is to embrace the fact that you AREN’T the right employee for every company. Thus, the only way to connect with those who will value what you have to offer the most is to get extremely clear in how you showcase your worth. If you are having trouble identifying your value to employers, try stepping back and assessing how you shop. From there, you just might be able to connect the dots and start to build a more meaningful message to attract the right buyers for your business-of-one.